Tag Archives: ECE

Professional Development

The 2016 Manitoba Child Care conference was held May 26th – 28th and as usual I attended all three days.  Three full days of workshops always leaves me with information overload so I give myself a little break before I go review my notes to remind myself of all the points I found noteworthy.   This year’s theme was ‘Be Inspired, Be Incredible’ and the workshops I attended were truly inspiring especially Teacher Tom!

I’ve attended various workshops and conferences annually throughout my childcare career.  I’ve written about some of them here, here, here and here.  Occasionally I have met ECE’s who appear to be there against their will – completely apathetic and unwilling to participate.  It always makes me wonder why they chose childcare as a career if they have no desire to learn – how can they expect to inspire the children they care for?

I can’t imagine not being interested in expanding your interests – to have no curiosity – to be stagnant.  I’ve attended some workshops that turned out to be much different than I had anticipated/hoped yet I have still found at least some tidbit of useful information.  If it turns out that the workshop presenter and I have completely different views/goals I would still consider it a learning opportunity – even if it is only to reinforce my own beliefs.

I am disappointed that there are rarely more than a few family childcare providers in attendance at conferences.  I’ve heard the excuses ‘It is too expensive’ (It’s a write-off), ‘I can’t afford to close for two days’ (Attend an evening or Saturday workshop),  ‘There is nothing that interests me’ (really?!?!), ‘I already know all that stuff’ (so go lead a workshop – be the expert of your group – mentor others!),’I don’t know anyone else who is going’ (Great! Make some new friends).  In fact, I think that last one is really important – possibly the most important reason you should be going. Family childcare providers work in isolation and it is really easy to get stuck in an old, outdated routine and never grow.

Certainly we can develop wonderful relationships with the families we have enrolled but that can’t provide the type of benefit we get from interacting with peers. Besides – we get food at conferences – food we don’t need to cook ourselves!  I love food that someone else cooks – except fishy things, I don’t like seafood.  One of the reasons I joined a gym is so I never have to turn down food when someone offers it to me.  Ooops, sorry, I got a little off topic for a moment…

The Province of Manitoba Best Practices Licensing Manual for Family and Group Childcare Homes recommends:

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Networking with colleagues is extremely important whether through conferences, committees, courses or some other type of training.  Although useful at times I don’t think looking for new ideas on Pinterest or interacting with peers on social media sites counts as professional development. Personally I believe professional development should be a regulation, a requirement for licensing not just a best practice.

So, here are a few points from my notes from this year’s MCCA conference;

  • Attitude matters, 100 positive people + 1 negative person = 101 negative people.
  • Quality is only as strong as your most marginal performer.
  • Cooperation is hardwired, competition is taught.
  • Formal instruction prepares people to work in factories.
  • Education is not the filling of an empty vessel – it is the ignition of the flame.
  • If it is not interesting to you it is not interesting to them either.
  • Play is what children do when adults stop telling them what they should do.
  • Young children are the most creative problem solvers in the world.
  • The role of the teacher is to prepare the environment for the children to play.

To be honest most of these points are not new knowledge for me but the conversations I was involved in surrounding these points were extremely enlightening and that is why I go to conferences. Counting down the days until my next conference – The Manitoba Nature Summit is just three months away – so excited!

A Matter of Money – Centre or Home

I think one of the greatest things about childcare is that no two programs/facilities are exactly the same – and that is perfect because no two children are the same either. Some children thrive in a centre environment while others need the smaller, more familiar setting that a family childcare home can offer. The same is true for Early Childhood Educators. It is the variety of childcare environments that gives ECE’s the opportunity to choose the one that is the best fit for them to work in.

In my last post I described family childcare as my ‘calling’ – there is no other job I would rather have regardless of the income and this includes centre based childcare. Just because I think family childcare is the best place for me does not mean I think it is the best form of childcare for every ECE.

My daughter was 12 years old when I first opened my childcare home. She was actively involved in all our activities and couldn’t wait to turn 18 and be able to sub for me. After graduating high school she went on to earn her ECE II diploma and went to work in a centre. She made many financial sacrifices to save enough money from her limited income to buy her own home. Most people assumed she was planning to switch to family childcare. However, when asked about it she was adamant – “NO! She would never, EVER work in family childcare.”

She is now an ECE III working full time in a centre specializing in infant care. I am an ECE II operating a licensed family childcare home We’ve shared many stories and had many conversations about the similarities and differences between our respective careers. Our annual incomes before taxes are almost identical – when mine is calculated at its maximum. There are numerous factors that cause family childcare income to fluctuate – some I will mention later in this post. Family childcare expenses will be covered in a separate post.

We also cannot compare our after tax income because there are so many variables such as number of dependents and total family income that affect the amount we pay for taxes. So, for the moment I’m just going to say that our incomes are both about the same at $32,000 annually before taxes.

So, let’s compare hours next. My childcare home is open Mon-Fri from 6:30 am until 5:30 pm so I spend 55 hours per week with the children without any breaks. Working in a centre I wouldn’t work that many hours so, at the same annual income if you were to count only the hours we spend with the children my hourly wage as a family childcare would be much lower than my daughter working in a centre.

However, working in a centre also requires traveling time and expenses to get to and from work. If you count the time from when my daughter leaves her house to go to work until she arrives back home after then her work day is equal to mine too. I consider the ‘no commute time/expense’ a perk of working in family childcare that is an acceptable trade-off for spending more time with the children.

I also spend about 14 additional hours per week cleaning, doing paperwork, planning activities, and meeting with parents etc when the children are not here. Technically these are all unpaid hours and some of these duties would not be required by an ECE in a centre. Some of them are required and the centre ECE has to get them done sometime during their regular workday. There are a lot of things I could probably do when the children are here but I choose to do after hours because it is easier. To a certain extent how much time I spend ‘working’ is my choice and breaking down family childcare income to an hourly wage is impossible.

I feel the additional hours of work a family childcare puts in is an acceptable trade-off for the amount of control we over our program and environment. I’ve toured many childcare centres where just walking through the rooms makes me shudder and I can’t imagine having to work there. There are centres that I think are fabulous and they have philosophies and programming that I believe in – but they also have other staff members. Many family childcare providers quite willingly label ourselves as ‘Does not work well with others’. It is not that we don’t get along with other people but rather that we have difficulty sharing responsibility. We would prefer to just do it all, our way, by ourselves – that’s why we chose family childcare.

However, there are some definite downsides for an ECE working in family childcare – fluctuating income has to top the list. Remember, my maximum annual income was about the same as that of an ECE working in a centre – but not all providers have eight filled spaces all the time so there are many factors that make my income drop below maximum. If you have difficulty setting and sticking to a budget or are relying solely on one income family childcare may not be a good career option.

Many family childcare providers cannot or will not fill their school-age spaces – there is little financial incentive to do this. The additional expenses, supplies and work required for school-age care are so high that many providers find it is not practical even if they live in an area where there is a demand for school-age care. Considering only the five preschool spaces a family childcare provider has – if all the children in care are over two years old then the provider’s income is more than $600 per month lower than maximum. That puts a family childcare provider’s income significantly lower than that of an ECE working in a centre.

Becoming a licensed family childcare provider is often touted as being a great way to work AND stay at home with your own children but I might really disagree with that view. If your family childcare income is your family’s main or only income it definitely does not make sense to choose FCC over working in a centre. Your own children use up childcare spaces lowering your income from both parent fees and operating grant – essentially costing you more than if you worked outside your home and paid to put your children in childcare. An ECE working in a centre would still receive their full salary and if that was their only income they would probably qualify for a subsidy significantly lowering their costs for childcare.

So yes, there are some big differences between working in family childcare vs. working in a childcare centre but it is all about choices. There are pros and cons to both – you just have to decide which trade-offs you are willing to make. My next post is going to deal more specifically with the financial side of family childcare so, stay tuned….

A Matter of Money – Motivation

I have often been reluctant to join in the fight to demand higher wages for ECE’s – not because I don’t value what we do but rather, because I love my job. I think that my reluctance to complain about wages stems from contentment – for me it doesn’t feel much like work. The money is not what motivates me to be a licensed family childcare provider.

Before I opened my childcare home I volunteered in nursery and kindergarten classrooms and ran a recreation program for the children in the housing development where we lived – basically I was ‘working’ for free. Being able to earn an income by doing something I truly enjoyed was an added bonus. In all honesty, if I won a lottery I would still be a family childcare provider – but I would be able to offer the program of my dreams.

Yes, I know ECE’s earn far less than workers in other fields with a similar amount of education but compared to the years my family spent on social assistance this feels pretty comfortable. Yet, without the additional income that my husband earns as a school bus driver I know we would have difficulty paying the bills on my income alone. There are many things we would like to do but don’t do because we lack the funds to do them.

According to the descriptions over at PsychCentral, for me family  childcare is not a job, or even just a career – it is a calling.I’ve been called ‘altruistic’ – I had to go look up the meaning of that because it wasn’t a word I’ve ever used – and would definitely never use to describe myself. Actually, I would probably have to say that sometimes I feel selfish for enjoying my job. Yes, there are some aspects of being a family childcare provider that even I don’t relish. There are some days when I’ve had enough and I just want the day to end, but would more money change that? I don’t think so.

So, let’s say I couldn’t be a family childcare provider and had to choose a different job – I would expect more money because I would not enjoy my job as much. In fact, there are some jobs that no amount of money would make me want to do the work. Some jobs that would require such an enormous amount of effort to just show up that even a huge salary would not make it worthwhile. Yet, other people do those jobs so something must motivate them – and maybe it is the money – maybe not.

So, since we’ve already established that I might not the best spokesperson for the ‘Early Childhood Educators need more money’ argument, let’s talk about why I started writing this. When I hear ECE’s constantly lamenting about how hard their job is, how unfair it is that other people get paid more to do less work, making lists of everything they don’t get paid enough to do, my first thought isn’t “You deserve more money”. My first thought is “Maybe you need to find another job.”

Bracing for backlash.

Yes, I do think that ECE’s are underpaid – remember, my ECE wage comparison was social assistance benefits – it took me three years working as a family childcare provider before my income surpassed the need for an income supplement. I do think that the job we do is extremely valuable and that higher wages would help childcare programs attract and keep qualified staff. But – we are trained to speak positively to the children so why speak so negatively about your career?

Tell me what would make it better. How would more money positively affect the job you do? What would a higher wage for you mean to your program, the children in your care and their families. What would you do with more money? Please, don’t attack those who are on your side and doing their best to make a little go a long way.

Good-Bye Old Tree

Last summer the tree across the street was marked for removal – we loose so many of our grand old elm trees due to Dutch Elm Disease.  Although loosing trees makes us sad, the tree removal process is also very exciting.  One morning last week we noticed that the city workers were putting ‘No Parking’ on the street signs around the tree.

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We had the perfect vantage point – the tree is directly in front of our window;

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After the signs were put up the snow plow removed all the snow banks from the area around the tree.  Then, for the rest of the morning there was no further activity.  We waited. We had lunch and then I closed the blind so it was darker for the toddlers’ nap time.  As the children slept I caught up on some paperwork and answered a few emails — then I heard the trucks.

Seriously, why do they always come at nap time?  Who do I complain to about this?  I paced back and forth listening to the chain saws and impatiently waiting for the children to wake.  As soon as the children began to stir I flung open the blind and sent all the children to the window as I put away the cots.  The baby stayed in his crib – standing there he could see over the children at the window.

All the branches had already been removed from the tree and they had cut a notch from the trunk;

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They tied a rope to the tree as a safety measure so it would not fall on the nearby houses.  Then, one more cut and the trunk began to fall;

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CRASH! Wow, that was loud and the whole house shook.

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As the workers began cutting the tree trunk into smaller pieces one of the children started complaining about the ‘bad pirate’ wrecking the tree.  I was confused until they pointed to this worker’s helmet;

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The tractor then picked up the trunk pieces;

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And put them in a big dump truck;

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It was all very interesting and kept the children engaged for the remainder of the afternoon.  I printed off a series of pictures of the tree removal process and used them to create sequence cards.  The children have enjoyed looking at them and reliving the excitement of the day.

Artificial Nature

It was back in 2005 that I first created a nature area in the playroom as a way to bring nature indoors.  Originally it was just 16 sq ft nature loft;

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It was a very popular picnic spot so in 2009 I redesigned it and doubled the size;

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This new loft was also higher off the ground and under the loft was an ‘underwater’ tunnel;

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Admittedly this under/over nature areas was one of my personal favorite designs but it was a nightmare to clean.  The children hauling armloads of toys up and down the loft stairs was another concern.

In 2010 I abandoned the nature ‘loft’ idea and created a nature ‘area’ in one half of the small nap room off the main play room.  This new nature area had both ‘land’ and ‘water’ areas with many pillows to create comfortable places to relax;

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I found that having the trees up against the walls meant the nature area lost the secluded/sheltered feel that the loft had provided.  So, in the next renovation I moved the trees from the border to the centre  of the nature area.  Moving trees is somewhat easier to do in an artificial environment 🙂

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This new arrangement allowed the trees to create a canopy over the whole area and the open corners provided quiet areas to sit.  It also created another problem – running in circles around the tree.

It wasn’t the circling the tree that bothered me, it was the running.  The circling always started slowly – often marching and singing – but gradually became fast and reckless.  Left unchecked the situation could become totally out of control.

As is often the case with direct guidance, repeated reminders to ‘walk’ were usually ignored.  I much prefer to use indirect guidance so I’ve been looking for a way to add something to the environment to slow down or eliminate the running problem.

I had this chunk of tree against the wall for texture and a ‘home’ for small toy animals.  I moved it over to create a sort of speed bump;

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However, I was concerned that the triangular shape – that had been perfect when placed against the wall – would be dangerous in this location;

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So, I placed pillows over the log and covered it with the ‘grass’ blanket.  Now it is a little hill in our indoor nature area;

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The babies love climbing over the little hill and curling up in the comfy relaxation corner;

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Yes, I’ve now managed to replace indoor ‘running’ with indoor ‘climbing’ but it is a climbing activity that I consider acceptable for an indoor environment.

We do spend a lot of time outdoors where all running, jumping, and climbing is encouraged.  Interestingly, the children are aften a lot less active outdoors.  I know why.  No matter how much ‘nature’ I bring to our indoor environment there is one thing I can never recreate.

The calming effect of nature cannot be replicated in an artificial indoor nature environment.  To truly relax in nature you must go outside.

Mud Day 2013

I just spent the entire three day long weekend ‘celebrating’ Canada Day by rebuilding and reorganizing some of my kitchen cupboards.  The whole project actually took much longer than I expected and there was no time for any computer work.

I only have four days of ‘work’ left before my ‘vacation’ when we will tackle the major project.  I don’t anticipate much time for computer work then either so I simply must get in a few pictures from last week’s International Mud Day.

I loved that the school-age children were here for mud day this year.  We started with a bin full of dirt and we added some water.  Some of the the children were a little unsure about the activity – only one chose to watch instead of joining in.

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Mixing the dirt and water together and then using the strainers to try to separate them again

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The school aged children were the first to move on to other activities – they miss the opportunity to play here when they are in school for so much of the day and there were other things they wanted to do.  Of course first there was some more excitement about using the hose to wash off the mud.

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The preschoolers stayed and played in the mud for nearly an hour more – definately not going to wait until 2014 before we do this again. 🙂

Trees

It started as a competition.  The school-age children were making pyramids with blocks.  The five of them were each building their own structure and they began bickering and complaining that there were not going to be enough blocks.

The arguing began to escalate and then one of the children suggested that they should combine all the blocks and work  together.  A few minutes later they announced that they had made a ‘tree’;

Later in the day, during quiet time there was another tree;

I was informed that this one was from ‘The Lorax’.  A detailed description and re-enactment of the story followed.

All this tree talk reminded me of the funky yellow thing we found at the park this past summer – I assumed it was some typed of fungi. It was growning on a tree and the children were fascinated;

Yesterday at circle time we looked at the trees in the nature guide, discussed their simalarities and differences and picked our favourites;

Then I read ‘Signs Along the River‘ by Kayo Robertson.  The children were getting restless so we went outside to run around and of course look at trees;

Later we looked through the items in our nature treasure box;

And sorted the items into two groups – ‘Parts of trees’ and ‘Not from trees’.

Trees (and children) are amazing.